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Bureaucrat's Errors Mean closure for Manly Dam

Rob's picture

By Rob - Posted on 12 February 2010

Manly Dam Access Changes Feb 2010

Update: Want to show support for riding at Manly Dam? Sign up to Manly Dam - Save the date and come along!

Update 17/2: Press coverage of this:

Update 22/2: Warringah Council issue a FAQ " response to many letters and emails received..."

Update 24/2: Track will be re-opened to riders but at the expense of walkers. Press coverage here:

I just don't know how to put this, so am going to just get straight to the point:

Manly Warringah Council have decided that due to a bureaucratic error that happened many years ago the single track sections of the Manly Dam circuit have never actually been technically legal riding. As such, instead of turning a blind eye, or deciding to make an extra effort to work around what is their mistake, they are to penalise riders by closing sections of the track.

If you look at the linked map, it's obvious that the circuit is basically unridable given this decision.

They are sighting safety concerns for this, but that is a complete joke as, as far as I'm aware there have been no documented incidents involving riders and another party there. I spoke to the Mayor on Wednesday night who admits this isn't an issue as he is aware of "only one incident in 5 (or is that 10?) years" (he wasn't sure of the timeframe).

Please take a look at the closed sections on the map (and you note the map says that 'Penalties Apply') and steer clear of these tracks.

Reading the release it seems this will be discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the council Mar 23 to discuss this. I'd advise anyone with interest in riding Manly Dam to attend. You might also like to email or call councillors (their contact details are available on Warringah's Elected Council page) with your views on this.

Please see the attached map, and full press release below:

Manly Dam Reserve media release

For those wishing to write to council, here's a handy list of addresses to copy/paste:,,,,,,,,,

Or click here to email them all.

lounge's picture

Don't think anyone has posted this link to Manly Daily story.

Personally I don't think it helps our cause when only 150 people are planning to support the protest ride!! It should be 1,500!!

BT's picture

here -

It's confusing with so many threads on this topic!

flubberghusted's picture

Its bound to top 300+ riders on the day...

Already theres 199 on FB with more on this site and any others that will just show up on the day. May even go higher than 300.
Hate to be the pessimist out of the bunch, but the thing I'd like to know is where is everyone going to park and congregate at, given the numbers?!

Hopefully it should get good coverage. The more media, the better.

Anybody know George Gregan. A national sports icon supporting our cause will always help...

Nev's picture

I sent the e-mail below to all councillors. I have had 4 responses distancing themselves from the decision and offering support and one suggesting that they have found a solution to the problem. Hopefully the situation will be resolved at the 23 Feb meeting.

Dear Councillors

Below is am email response from Councillor Dr Helen Wilkins in which she states. Council is potentially liable for any injuries that might be incurred as a result of the very narrow sections of bike track being shared by bikes and pedestrians.

A simple solution to the problem is to close the trail to pedestrians rather than mountain bikers. Mountain bikers are the main users of the trail a conservative estimate of usage would be 95% mountain bikers and 5% walkers. There are already many walking only tracks available at Manly Dam and on the other side of the Wakehurst Parkway in the National Park. Mountain bikers have attempted to engage council over the years to gain legal access to areas to try and help reduce the number of illegal trails and use the land responsibly and with the minimum of impact on the environment. I am concerned that the goodwill from both the council and the mountain bike community will be destroyed by this decision which appears to have been made on the assumption that something may happen and affects the majority not the minority of trail users.

LadyToast's picture

flubberghusted, shouldn't we all ride? Plenty of time to get there from pretty much anywhere in Sydney, and I would imagine that many MTB's heading in one direction would get some attention as well, especially if we all wear our "Save the Dam" T-shirts.

philberesford's picture

That's an awesome little video and great promo piece for The Dam to boot.

Seriously, does anyone know and ride with him?

BT's picture

The Maximum Adventure Team just emaild this out to their subscription list -

Good stuff guys. Smiling

RAChad's picture

That article about Rik Hart backing the ban on the basis of his own, the Mayor's and a few other senior council employee's opinions on what's safe typifies a major problem at hand;

Today I contacted AMB about the issue, and the council's idea that the trail is unsafe. Their National Director Nicholas Bowman may be able to organise the trail to be looked at by some people who know what they're looking at. Hopefully this will be done in time to make a submission for the Feb 23rd meeting. They would take an experienced look at the trail from an MTB'ers and a shared-use perspective.

In the meantime, maybe we could get Rik and Mike on some bikes with the assistance of any number of the 6 accredited MTB guides that just graduated from Northern Beaches TAFE College's new Outdoor Recreation course in Brookvale (which they offered here partly due to the proximity of Manly Dam)? We could at least demostrate the standard practice technique of "if you can't ride it, get off and will still be there tomorrow (...we hope)".

I've also contacted certain sports celebrities that live in the area and won't mention any names but we may well be able to get some to attend the ride on the 6th.

flubberghusted's picture

LadyToast, dont get me wrong, the more that show up, the better! If we top 500, that would be amazing !!

But being in the industry of crowd control, the magnitude of this protest ride will no doubt require the presence of some form of control and that will come from the POLice...
I suppose that will mean more attention to our cause but whether that will be good or bad, remains to be seen in the eye of Police and Council members. Nevertheless, lets push ahead and let our numbers be our voice !

George Gregan can be found at any one of his fantastic coffee shops:

mortracer's picture

Their primary reason for closing this section of track is for safety!!? Wheres the evidence of any safety breeches? , their isn't any. Gotta love bureaucracy, its truly taken madness to another dimension. We should close all the roads for vehicles traffic, the incidence of death is clearly eminent and they have the stats to justify it. Soon they will be closing the tracks to walkers, after all the possibility of a sprained ankle is a high risk.

On another note, they also talk of erosion in other anti mtb forums. Erosion is caused by traffic weather that be animal, man made or vehicle. The tracks open pathways for rain to flow and in turn then the rain causes the v shaped ruts and other erosion's. The kokoda track for example has massive erosion. In parts ropes are used and needed to get through several sections...all caused by walkers. There's only one way to keep everyone happy. That's to keep these great communal tracks open, encouraging a healthy and fit lifestyle for all people whether walkers or riders. We as a culture should be well pleased that people are getting into the outdoors and getting out from behind their desks and lazy lifestyles. Such low output lifestyles lead to disease of the heart and the mind. Lets embrace and encourage lifestyles that get people out into the wild and into life..."Life be in it!" Comon Australia, lets not fall into sedentary madness, are we truly falling to this level!

Instead of hindering, lets encourage it, lets find more ways to get people out and enjoying a lifestyle that's conducive to this country's well being. Lets expand our minds and our hearts and choose to be a life participant. Only one little mans opinion of course.

mortracer's picture


Pitty people with such high positions cant understand that it is tracks like these that encourage a fit and healthy lifestyle. All fitness incurs risks. They close because of the safety, yet not one incident has been reported? They claim its all about potential risk, yeah, well our lives are risked more in daily traffic to and from work...but we don't see the roads being closed because of the real risk! I remember an Australia as a free country not bound by suit wearing pollys standing against the very thing they should be encouraging! A healthy, strong and active community. 13 years in the Defence Force as a fitness instructor taught me that risks are always there, doesn't matter what you do or how you do it, it takes some understanding to see that through activities like Mountain bike riding that life is enhanced in many positive attributing ways. Taking away such a place that bike riders have happily co-existed with walkers for the past 10 years with no incidents is bureaucracy gone mad. Credit to all uses.

I heard its very risky working behind a desk, pens are very dangerous, very sharp, they are looking at making pens less sharp to reduce the perceived risks with writing.

Toddy's picture

Just received this morning,

"Dear Scott,

Thank you for taking the time to write.

I can assure you that I am opposed to the closure of the track and also any suggested closure to hikers. My preferred solution would have been to allow the current use to continue with additional warning signs and disclaimers, whilst a new solution - preferably a separate track for hikers along the golf course - is constructed with the help of volunteers.

The decision to close the track was NOT made by the elected council, but was a staff decision with support from the General Manager and the mayor (see original press release). We other councillors were not allowed to be involved in the decision.

We had a staff report with 4 options announced for the 23rd February and staff suggested some 'proposed current actions', including the closure, but we were not involved in deciding if the 'proposed' actions should be implemented.

Council had - against my opposition - voted for a reduction in meeting cycle (see meeting minutes), which resulted in the report coming to council only on the 23rd March.

But Virginia and myself have a Notice of Motion that was part of the agenda at the last meeting, which went over time, and which will come to an extraordinary meeting on the 23rd of February. The NoN is asking for a re-establishment of the volunteer program under supervision. As part of this motion, Virginia will be moving an addition that will reopen the track and provide a more adequate solution.

Your excellent campaign has helped to sway the mayor and we assume that we have the numbers to get the NoM through. Congratulations!"



PS: Virginia and myself are trying to get the Ride2school program (see google) up in Warringah for a ride to school day on 17th March in order to encourage more kids and parents to cycle to school - your support would be appreciated!

Jai's picture

Our proposal for an urban MTB track in Port Macquarie went to Council here last night.

Now on display for 3 weeks.

Keep your chins up, comrades...

Feel free to send through your support... maybe it's time to make that seachange, pack your bags!

Jai Cooper
Junior Development Officer
Hastings Valley Mountain Bike Riders Inc.

garyinoz's picture

Thanks for posting all the email address' Rob.

asha's picture

Is it worth getting an online petition to reopen the single track to riders?
We can then email it to the council and councellors, it has to count for something.

What do you all think?

hawkeye's picture

On line least of all. Sorry. Smiling

Unfortunately they only count as one letter. Better to write a separate email in your own words, and encourage others to do the same.

However, your setting up a site of some kind to publicise the issue is welcome.

May I make a suggestion? To prevent a proliferation of data sources and things getting out of control (y'know, like Chinese whispers 'n' all) and confused messages based on misinformation hurting our cause, if you're going to set up any website I suspect it would be better to point people here with a link to get the most current info.

This site is going to be the most current and accurate information source, as a number of us are dealing directly with Councillors and live in the area. We are updating with information as it comes to hand.

cranks's picture

Council have received in excess of 270 emails from bikers - 'all objections' - relating to the closure.

Well done NobMob / Rob for supplying all the email addresses. I like many others emailed them with my input (clearly not positive) and forwarded the addresses to other riders who did the same.

Interestingly - no councillors voted for this. It was the GM's discretionay decision I believe.

My thoughts - accomodating walkers and riders has always been a pain in the rear for the council - problematic is probably how they would describe it. So at the first possible opportunity, when they discovered their public liability insurance didnt cover multi-use of the single track, they shut us down. Using the excuse that trail workers have experienced near misses with cyclists. Errrhhh hang on - council puts workers in harms way on the road clearing vegetation and so on. The difference being they use warning signs, hazard cones etc. But seemingly they were not prepared to do the same here.

So well done to NobMob for harnessing Pedal Power - it seems we have all had enough of our access being continually compromised.

Here's hoping we get a satisfactory solution - there has been an 'extraordinary council meeting' called on the 23rd of February.

nrthrnben's picture

I have just sent the following to all above email addresses including Rik Hart
Also physically posting to some that did not supply or have publicly accessible email addresses(fair enough) but kindly supplied their actual postal address.

To whom it may concern,

Respectfully, I must say the closure of the only single trail available to most of Sydney’s mountain bikers came as both a shock and a disappointment to me, when locally, hundreds(or more) designated walking trails exist for walkers to enjoy, even within the dam itself.

I understand The Council and lawyers safety concerns, although I do not agree with them, neither have I ever seen or heard any evidence of any safety incidents. Respectfully, is there any written evidence of any safety incidents? If so please send back on your return email.

The recent closure, although I’m sure it won’t be for long, troubles me especially so since Mountain Bikers are by far the majority on the manly dam circuit.

Even though we as mountain bikers actively encourage a multi use trail and have done so successfully at Manly Dam, without serious incident for the past 20 years, I believe the logical choice should have been:

Consult with majority user group
Temporarily stop walkers on the section under scrutiny, since mountain bikers are by far the majority user group.
Council insert a new sentence into POM and also sort out any other legal issues,
Install new signage as per Example: Local Skate Park signage (this would be achieved an very little cost to council due to hundreds of mountain bike volunteers ready)
Once signage is up, inform walkers they can use the mountain bike track if they wish, but please give way to the majority user group.
Work along with mountain bikers and let them maintain the trail to IMBA standards found here or here

Below is a little more to the solution to your problem

Walkers have many varied opportunities when it comes to walking trails. On the other hand 1000’s of local bikers now have no single trail to ride on.

With the Manly Dam, I feel the most logical solution would be to allow walkers on "The designated Mountain Bike Trail" but all the signage is "walkers, please give way to bikers, bikers please be mindfully of all other users"

So in effect mountain biker’s policy would be: We don’t mind if walkers come onto the designated mountain bike trail. We are the majority user group so we have right of way on the designated mountain bike trail, but we will also respect the safety of all other users at all times. Side note: trails in other areas with equal user group usage could have a 50/50 right of way or bikers give way to walkers.

Signage could also encourage/suggest walkers to stick to, or enjoy the plethora of other alternate designated walker only trails nearby, or continue onto the mountain bike trail as usual with full knowledge that mountain bikers frequent it and to give way to them.

The more i think about it, the more i keep coming back to this solution, also considering success in NZ, Canada and so on with similar systems.

Please let me know your honest unbiased thoughts and reasons, both for, or against.

P.S I am both a local resident of [address supplied] and an active member of northern beaches mountain bike group

Nick R's picture

Its interesting that the council is concerned about the potential for collisions between riders and walkers on the singletrack sections, but not concerned about potential collisions between riders and other riders.

Whilst 90%+ people ride Manly Dam clockwise, it is signposted as a two way track and there is nothing to prevent people riding it in reverse. I occasionally ride Manly Dam in reverse (usually at night when I can see on-coming lights) and I have seen others do it too - both day and night. We do so at our own risk knowing that its possible for riders to be coming the other way!!!

Yetiman's picture

Keep an eye out in the Council section of the Manly Daily.
At some stage in the near future they will be asking for submissions of interest on Manly Dam's
Mountain Bike track.
We must all put in submissions to this as it counts heavily.
I think it needs to be in writing... snail mail (not sure though).

nrthrnben's picture

They are aware of the old signage and have admitted that it needs to be one way.

But as said before all these things need to be included come submission time.

Send and email now and submission time Smiling

ChopStiR's picture

Dear Tim,

Please note, the tracks' closure was the decision of council staff and didn't come to council for resolution, though we have to fix the problem that way, following cyclists' understandable outrage.

I agree with you that the tracks should reopen immediately. I will put an urgency motion up on Tuesday night at the council meeting that I hope will receive support.

Thanks for taking the time to send your concerns. It is appreciated. FYI, the email tally is around 320 now - all objections.


Virginia Laugesen
Councillor for C Ward
9400 3299
0437 499 959

ido09s's picture

guys is there anyone here that can write up a submission to send off.

We all want the track re opened, but i for one do not have the time to read the POM, nor the knowledge to know what to send off

nrthrnben's picture

on here when it comes to submission talent, there has been top class submissions made in the past from this site, when it gets closer to submission time, I'm sure we will hear and see more

The campaign we are currently doing, has been nothing short of amazing!. It shows what we can achieve when it really counts.
Although it is important that everyone uses their imagination and experience it is also important that we are on the same page and not submitting conflicting submissions, rather they should try to be based the general consensus of this site and IMBA trail building guidelines found at

rihearn's picture


As an ex user of the dam now living back in the UK I couldn't ignore this and have sent the following to the above council members.

Dear Sir/Madam

It was with great disappointment that I heard that the Manly Dam circuit had been partially closed to mountain bikers. I have spent many hours on the track in my time working in Westmead as a paediatrician 5 years ago. I would use the circuit at least twice a week despite the lengthy commute as it had, in my opinion, some world class riding. I have continued to use it since on my yearly visits and am very disappointed that I will not be able to next month.
I now live back in my home country of Scotland, a place with some of the best mountain biking in the world and a very progressive attitude towards mountain bikers. I feel I should put forward some arguements for the reinstating of the manly trails.

1. Economic - In the last 10 years our forestry commission in Scotland has worked hand in hand with mountain bikers and other local organisations to develop some unbelievable resources. I have attached a link for your information
I would go as far as say that sections of the manly dam are comparable to some of these trails.
These trails though free to use themselves, after you pay a small parking fee, have brought a quite sizeable infux of visitors to the area. These visitors generally need to be fed at the very least and often accomodated. In addition they often end up buying bicycle parts or hiring bicycles. In short they have become very important to the local economy.
The trails are looked after by a team of volunteers, generally mountain bikers, known locally as trailfaeries!

2. Litigation - We do live in an increasingly litiginous society but I have yet to hear of a single case where mountain bikers have sued for injury because of an accident on a bike specific trail in Scotland. All of the forestry commision trails I ride have disclaimers which plainly state that this is an inherently risky activity and they do not take responsibility for accidents. They also grade the trails much like ski runs with regards to technical difficulty to allow people to make informed decisions about what they are about to do.

3. Mixed use - There is of course often the conflict of users, most frequently walkers and bikers. Sections of technical singletrack are what brings mountainbikers and there are warnings to walkers in Scotland to this regard with an obvious alternative for them to use. Vice versa there are shared trail areas, generally wider and less technical with signage telling riders to take care for walkers.

4. Erosion - Any land use will involve erosion but properly maintained tracks for both walkers and riders will drastically reduce this and increase the enjoyment of land users. If there are well developed routes in an area it will hopefully reduce the building/use of unsanctioned trails.

5. Exercise - As a doctor I am very aware of the benefits of exercise and the lack of it in our youth. Lets not reduce it further.

6. Community - We often hear about our disenfranchised youth. Setting up a quality local trail will hopefully allow a group to be proud of there local environment and feel they have an investment in looking after it.

I hope some of these points make sense and would hope that by 2011 I am able to head out for a circuit or two of one of my favorite trails.

Yours Faithfully

Dr Richard Hearn

Crikey's picture

Received this in a reply from a Warringah councillor today:

"Moving forward, after much researching and communicating, it looks as though we may have found a way to reverse this decision at the Council meeting on the 23rd of February in favour of all mountain bikers."

Lets hope so...

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